In this article, we outline the three main UX design challenges that teams face when creating new digital products, then explain the skills and methods needed to overcome them.

Experience design for new products comes with unique challenges.

It’s one thing to orient ongoing product improvements around user experience if you already launched a product. You can simply test the existing product on actual users, as well as collect direct feedback related to the product. This is not the case when designing and developing new digital products, however.

For product ideas that have not yet been developed, effective experience design requires an added layer of skill and finesse.

How To Overcome Roadblocks in the UX Design Process for New Products

Some UX challenges are unique to new product development. Addressing these challenges through proven methods up front will pave the way for reliable, on-time development and end-products that exceed user experience expectations.

Praxent 3 Experience Design Roadblocks for New Product Development

1. Designing for Unknown Users

When developing new digital products, you don’t have existing users to study, which can pose a challenge for UX and UI design. It’s important to ensure you’re designing the product for an actual users’ wants and needs, as opposed to designing a product purely around your business goals.

This makes the foundational work of identifying and understanding users prior to starting development an essential step in product development. One important way to accomplish this is by conducting practical user research.

User Research

It’s a common misconception that user research is an optional step in the product UX design process, but this couldn’t be more fallacious. User research serves a key function, enabling you to make decisions based upon market need.

People will not simply want something “because it exists,” and if your product doesn’t fulfill a need for users it will not succeed.

Conducting user research allows you to gain a strong understanding of your users, receive detailed answers about this market and develop the empathy that’s so critical to effective UX design.

How To Conduct User Research

1. Start with gut convictions. What will the product do? Who will it serve? Use your convictions as a starting point when you begin your research.

2. Create provisional user personas. A provisional persona is one based on existing knowledge about a user type, but not based directly on any one actual user. Provisional personas are profiles of who you envision using the product. They help you ensure the product connects to real people and real situations.

3. Conduct generative user research. Generative research is a preliminary investigation into real-life user scenarios. You don’t know what you don’t know. Before you can ask users about their experience with a product, you have to know what questions to ask and what kind of product to ask them about.

The goal of generative user research is to formulate those questions, bringing greater definition to the problem and product solution.

4. Refine user personas based on findings. It’s essential to update your personas as you go along, to reflect what you have learned and more accurately represent your product’s target users. Using refined personas will lead to gathering more accurate data, ultimately enabling better design and UX problem solving.

5. Test usability with real people. Find people who either match the projected user persona or can emulate their role, then conduct usability testing with them using an interactive prototype of the product. Target users can also be identified as those that use competitive products.

6. synthesize your research and make informed design decisions. Tools like mental model diagrams and customer journey maps allow you to visualize and deeply understand customer behavior as you prioritize and design features.

Translating Observations & Abstract Concepts into Concrete Solutions

Design and strategy teams tasked with creating new digital products must be socially perceptive and able to bridge the gap between abstract and concrete.

“User researchers must have intense curiosity about people and their problems. Genuine curiosity and a real desire to understand users, clients and stakeholders is what motivates researchers.”
Jim Ross, UXmatters

Here are four skills that are critical to turning abstract ideas into real products that sell.

1. Ask the right questions during user interviews and contextual inquiries. It’s essential to have an idea of what you need to know upfront. If you ask the wrong questions you will get the wrong data, which can lead to confusing and often contradictory results.

It’s also important, however, not to let your upfront ideas close you off from learning new information. Contextual inquiries are a good way to get meaningful results, as they both ask people about potential UX problems and observe behavior in context of utilizing a certain product.

2. Translate results into jobs to be done. People “hire” a product or service to help them accomplish something (a job). Effective researchers translate interview answers and behavioral observations into clear jobs to be done, going beyond the task to explore the why and how. You can think of it as creating a bridge between where the customer is and where they want to be.

Finding Jobs to Be Done

It’s essential to understand why people would want a product. People buy things, including products and services, in order to achieve a desired outcome — to get a particular job done. Successful products are designed to deliver satisfactory results around specific jobs to be done.

Pinpointing jobs-to-be-done for undeveloped, new product concepts requires astute communication, observation, and problem-solving skills.

3. Identify features to help users accomplish the job to be done. Oftentime, companies build out fancy features they think users want, only to discover their users don’t actually have a use for “bells and whistles.”

Insead of falling for this common UX problem, identify features that allow the user to achieve their desired outcome in a better way than your competitors:

  • Features that save users time
  • Features that reduce financial risk for users
  • Features that alleviate users’ burdens
  • Features that instill confidence and heighten transparency

4. Turn written descriptions into designs. The final step in the process, of course, is turning abstract feature descriptions into concrete digital interface designs that visually guide users through the use of product features in a way that is intuitive and easy.

Managing Timeline Responsibly

User research and testing can take a long time because of all the unknowns. Who are the users? Where can we find people for our usability tests?

Once you’ve refined user personas, you can schedule tests or interviews with real people, but then you have to wait for their reply. Additionally, discoveries during market analysis or early user research can change the course of a product idea, prolonging the pre-development phase of a project.

Without proper planning, this part of the UX design process can hinder progress on other parts of the project.

Teams concerned with building experience-designed products need to carefully manage their timelines, investing in user research and testing at the right time without slowing down development.

Designing Three Sprints Ahead (3SA)

For new products, managing timeline responsibly might mean investing a whole two months in user research and prototyping at the very start. After that, new features should be designed at least three sprints ahead of development.

By designing three sprints ahead, teams are able to research and validate concepts as well as refine designs a full month ahead of the development schedule. This way, UX design teams can avoid problems and focus on designing simple, consistent and valuable experiences, equipping developers to in turn produce human-centered and UX-driven features.

Benefits of Implementing 3SA

  • UX-driven product designs
  • Better team morale
  • Clarity for development team (they can see what the product should look like in advance)
  • Design that’s both “pretty” and pragmatic

  • As you can see, there are many challenges to UX design when creating a new product without an existing user base. The steps above will help you overcome roadblocks and build out a product well-suited to the market and your future users’ needs.

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